For well over a century, and through four generations, the Gosling family have tended a herd of Guernsey cows on Swindon’s doorstep.

Berkeley Farm at Wroughton is still a family-run partnership, and these days the milk, cream and butter they supply to shops and wholesalers across southern England is all organic. Now Ed Gosling, great-grandson of the original Mr Gosling who set up the herd in 1908, is steering the business into the future.

“I love the diversity of the job,” Ed said. “I spend three hours on the farm early in the morning, then three or four hours tackling office work, then help in the dairy – it’s always different.”

Guernsey cows might not produce as much milk as commercial breeds like the black and white Holstein Friesian cows we frequently see in the fields, but they are famous for milk that is rich in flavour, protein and fat. At Ed’s farm, these beautiful chestnut and white animals are resting in barns knee-deep in clean, golden straw. All around the farm, cow paths have been laid down to guide them to the 350 acres of pasture, where they graze. Conservation extends beyond care of the cows – the farm has areas planted with wild flowers and hedge-trimming is restricted so many hedges retain their seeds and berries, to feed birds and animals.

Ed, 31, admits he had not always wanted to be a dairy farmer – in fact his boyhood dream was to be a football player for Arsenal – but the path of his life has taken him on a long journey, from Reading University, where he studied Agricultural Business Management, to four years working as a farm business consultant for Waterfield and White, then right across Africa during a year’s travelling – before taking him back home to Berkeley Farm.

“I went all around Africa, and I spent time giving advice to dairy farmers,” he said. As a volunteer for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), he spent time working on farms in exchange for somewhere to stay.

“I ended up doing seminars,” he said. “Their cows were dying of milk fever, which is really easy to stop. They had some high-yield milk cows but weren’t used to them.”

Ed undertook research on the feed given to the animals and worked out ways to tackle the problem with milk fever, passing on the information to the local farmers.

“They were the nicest people, and really welcoming,” he said. “It was paradise really. This was Kenya, far away from the city, in the tropical highlands. They were subsistence farmers, with about two-and-a-half acres plots. They grew a bit of coffee, and some generated their own electricity through a bio-digester, using slurry from their cows, to create gas which would run a cooker and lights.”

On his return from his African odyssey four years ago, Ed joined the management of the family farm. His parents, Nick and Christine Gosling had converted it to an organic business in 1999.

It usually takes two years to gain full Soil Association accreditation as an organic farm, and it means the 350 acres of pasture can not be treated with chemical pesticides and fertilisers. The 160-strong dairy herd at Berkeley Farm is fed during the winter months on silage harvested from the farm’s meadows, while the cows spend around nine months of the year grazing outdoors, and only three months inside the barns. Use of antibiotics is limited and used only when cows need medical attention.

“We want to have them out nine months of the year,” Ed said. “Guernsey cows are low yielding, low input and low output. But a lot of conventional dairy farmers have got a high standard of animal welfare, like we do, organic or not.”

The herd is tended by herdsman Graham Peach and Richard Hopkins, who make sure they are milked twice daily. The cows graze the farm’s pastures in rotation, and walk to and from the milking parlour, in traditional style. The cows are all recognised individuals with names – and Graham can tell you not only a cow’s name, but that of her mother and grandmother too.

The dairy products are made using milk from the Berkeley herd of Guernsey cows, as well as two local organic herds. Dairy manager Paul Birch, who has worked at the farm for 29 years, said the dairy processed between 8,000 and 10,000 litres of milk a day, as well as double cream, and four to five hundred blocks of salted and unsalted butter, which are all patted and wrapped by hand. The milk is pasteurised – which means it is heated to 72.5 degrees for 25 seconds to destroy any harmful micro-organisms – but it is not homogenised. Homogenisation is a process which breaks down the fat in the milk so it does not separate; in milk that is not homogenised the cream rises to the top of the bottle.

Having a client base of people who are deeply concerned about the provenance of their food has challenges and opportunities. The dairy had its own milk round as late as 2004 – but since the rise in concern about single-use plastics, Ed has had enquiries about setting up a new delivery round, with glass bottles – something he is considering. On the other hand, he is getting many more questions about animal welfare in response to a recent rise in people choosing not to consume dairy products.

“I’ve had all sorts of questions from customers about artificial insemination, and what happens to the bull calves,” he said. “We do not shoot them – we rear them till they’re weaned and sell them to a beef farmer. That actually costs us money, as it costs about £100 to rear them and they sell for about £20.”

Although it takes a traditional approach in some ways, technology is used in some surprising interventions – including pedometers around the fetlocks of some of some of the cows. Ed says this helps detect when the cow is coming into season, because the cows start moving around more.

The dairy has also started producing a fermented milk drink called kefir, and ghee, a clarified butter often used in Indian cookery, and Ed has taken on an additional 70 acres of land from nearby Black Horse Farm.

Much of the produce is sold to organic retailer Abel and Cole. It is also available at various Wiltshire outlets, such as the Deli in Highworth, the Food Hall in Old Town and the Three Trees Farm Shop at Chiseldon.